Netflix's 'Mad' Sheds Light On The Complex Effects Of Mental Illness
As a society, we have become more and more open about discussing the realities of mental illness and the 10 million people diagnosed with a condition yearly, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness. Robert G. Putka’s new film Mad, on Netflix now, takes that discussion to another level by observing it through the structure of one complicated family. The movie follows the two daughters of a bipolar woman, Mel (Maryann Plunkett), who can’t deal with the realities of her recent divorce from her husband or the neglect she experiences from her kids, Connie and Casey. This triggers a whirlwind of suicidal thoughts and depression, landing her in the hospital, and it makes for a story that's both heartbreaking and utterly compelling.
In Mad, Mel's eldest daughter Connie (Jennifer Lafleur) has a huge falling out with her younger sister Casey (Eilis Cahill) because of her apathy towards her mother. Neither daughter wants to deal with caring for their mother, so they they convince Mel to voluntary check into the psychiatric program at the hospital after an episode. With events like that, one would think that Mad would be a serious drama, but in actuality, the movie employs both humor and gravity to portray the collateral damage that occurs from this family dealing with the effects of mental illness. Connie, for instance, struggles to keep her own family healthy and "normal," by vowing to not be like her mother, yet her insistance on not having a broken home blows up in her face. Meanwhile, Casey finds herself faltering under the complete scrutiny of her sister, and through a series of ill-advised sexual encounters, her own life begins to crumble.
Although Mel is the only one in the film with a diagnosed mental illness, all three women struggle to find themselves and deal with the effects of her condition. Connie's stress over her mother's situation has her hurting anyone who manages to come close to her, and she views life with an attitude of constant negativity. Casey's struggle, meanwhile, sees her turning to substance abuse and random hookups as a way of escaping reality. The daughters' behaviors are all too relatable, and I'm sure many of us having similarly coped with difficult situation by turning inexpressible feelings into anger and bitterness.
Through Mel, Mad paints a complex picture of what living with mental illness is life, but it also shows how mental illness can affect not just the sufferer, but his or her loved ones, too. The daughters struggle in their own lives, but they also use humor to cope with their tough situation, and their complex emotions will ring true to anyone who's gone through a battle of their own. The film does not shy away from detailing the harsh truths about mental illness and family bonds, and it doesn't attempt to be the kind of feel-good movie so often made. Instead, it portrays a realistic and moving understanding of the complicated dynamics that are often present in a family dealing with the illness of a loved one.
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